Duolingo English test syllabus and exam pattern, 2022 - 2023

Updated on: Nov 9, 2022

The Duolingo English Test is one of the most popular English proficiency tests out there.

It helps people demonstrate their English ability to the levels required by universities.

It’s a simple process to take the test. Because it’s online you can take it anytime, anywhere that suits you. It takes an hour and you’ll get the results within 2 days.

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But how does the Duolingo test work?

This article will outline the syllabus and test pattern of the Duolingo English Test.

By understanding the syllabus, you have a higher chance of scoring well.

Duolingo Exam Pattern

The Duolingo English Test takes 60 minutes and breaks down as follows:

  • Introduction and onboarding: 5 minutes
  • Graded adaptive test: 45 minutes
  • Ungraded video and writing sample: 10 minutes

Introduction and onboarding

The first part of the test is the introduction and onboarding. The system checks if your computer, camera, speakers and microphone are working well. It’s a good idea to have checked these yourself before getting to this point.

You’ll also need to show your Government-issued ID card so be sure to have this to hand.

After this, you will go through the guidelines and regulations. This is to ensure you understand and follow them.

Graded Adaptive Test

The bulk of the test is the graded adaptive section. The computer uses AI to learn from your previous answers and adapts the rest of the questions to meet the necessary difficulty level.

There are many questions in the pool to choose from, so the odds of repeated questions are small. According to Duolingo themselves, only one in a thousand tests would see a repeat question.

It’s also worth noting that there’s no set number of questions in this section. The system will end the test when there is enough evidence to provide your score.

Graded Adaptive Test Question Types

These are the types of questions you are asked in the graded section.



Time Limit




How often they appear


Read and complete3 minutesLiteracy, Comprehension6 times on average
Read and select1 minuteLiteracy, Comprehension6 times on average
Listen and select1 ½ minutesComprehension and Conversation6 times on average
Listen and type1 minuteComprehension and Conversation6 times on average
Read aloud20 secondsComprehension and Conversation6 times on average
Write about the photo1 minuteProduction, Literacy3 times on average
Speak about the photo½ minute to 1 ½ minutesProduction, ConversationOnce on average
Read and write5 minutesProduction, LiteracyOnce on average
Read and speak½ minute to 1 ½ minutesConversation, ProductionOnce on average
Listen and speak½ minute to 1 ½ minutesConversation, ProductionTwice on average

Ungraded video and writing sample

The second part of the test is the video interview. At the start of this section, you are given a choice between two randomly-selected questions to answer. Choose quickly though as you’ll only have 30 seconds to decide.

In this section you may be asked to describe an image, speak on a given situation or choose a topic to speak about for a few minutes.  Try to come up with a natural introduction and conclusion to your answer. Remember that you are trying to prove how you can speak and write on a subject.

The question will then be broken down into

  • 3 minutes for the video-speaking sample
  • 5 minutes for the writing sample

You’ll be able to review these before submitting them. Make so be sure to check spelling, punctuation or grammar errors. 

Duolingo Test pattern tips

Here are a few tips for each section to help you score well.

Read and complete - you’ll be given sentences with letters missing from words that you need to fill in.
  • Read the passage carefully before focusing on individual words
  • Use clues from the context to help you
Read and select - multiple choice answers where you need to select the real English words from a list.
  • Read the words very carefully as some are close to real words but with little differences.
  • There may be different numbers of real words in each question.
Listen and select - multiple choice audio questions where you need to select the real English words from clips.
  • Listen carefully as some fake words may sound like real ones.
  • You can replay each word as often as you need.
Listen and type - listen to an audio clip and type out what was said.
  • Type it all out at first and then check by replaying the clip and amending if you need.
  • You can play the clip through three times in total.
Read aloud - record yourself reading out a sentence displayed on the screen.
  • If you’ve got time, try saying it all once before recording.
  • You’ve only got one chance to record it.
Write about the photo - you’ll be given a photo and asked to describe what is happening in it in a few sentences.
  • Try and describe it in as much detail as possible.
  • Use more than one sentence.
Speak about the photo - you’ll be given a photo and asked to record yourself describing it verbally.
  • Imagine you’re describing the photo to someone who can’t see it.
  • Use the 20 seconds you have to look at the photo to plan what you will say.
Read and write - you will read a written prompt and be asked to answer it in at least 50 words.
  • Write as much as you can, certainly much more than just 50 words.
  • Proofread before submitting.
Read and speak - you will be given a written prompt and asked to speak your answer for at least 30 seconds.
  • Try to vary your words and sentence lengths but don’t forget you need to sound natural.
  • Answer all of the parts to the question.
Listen and speak - you will be given an audio prompt and asked to speak your answer.
  • You can play the question three times in total.
  • You’ve got 90 seconds to speak.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Duolingo English Test hard?

The Duolingo English Test’s difficulty is decided by the adaptive technology.  The system learns your level and offers a greater challenge to match your ability. If you do your research and practice, you should not find it hard.

Is Duolingo English Test harder than IELTS?

There is no reason why the Duolingo English Test should be considered harder than IELTS. The adaptive nature means that you can face more difficult questions if you're able to. If you have studied you should be able to perform well enough to get the score you deserve.

What is the pass mark for Duolingo English Test?

There isn’t a specific pass mark for the Duolingo English Test.  Institutions vary in what score they require you to get to be able to be accepted on their courses. However, a score of over 120 out of 160 would generally be considered to be a good score. This places you in the Upper-Intermediate or Advanced levels of scoring.

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